Starting a bakery isn’t just about baking some tasty treats or something you can do overnight. In addition to being a competent baker you’ll also need training, investment, equipment, and a marketing plan.
Many people have a idyllic vision of owning a bakery since they love to bake. The reality isn’t all roses and puppy dogs. The best advice for someone who hasn’t worked in a bakery is to get a job at one, even work for free at a bakery in another town. This will give you good insight and practical experience in dealing with suppliers, inspectors, employees, customers, etc and will help prepare you with dealing with problems and situations that may occur. There is a lot more to running a business than just producing the product. Many bakeries have failed because the entrepreneur was either unprepared for what was coming required to run a bakery or found out it wasn’t as fun as they thought.
The most important thing that any business needs is customers, afterall they are the ones who pay the bills. Assuming there are enough customers there are going to be competitors. Before you hang out a sign here are a few critical questions to answer.
- Who will buy your cakes? Why, almost everybody eats cakes you say? Wrong answer. Going into business without a clear target and you are setting yourself for failure.
- Who are your competitors and more specifically what are you doing better or different than they are. You may say the grocery store’s cakes taste terrible and they are not competition. Guess what? They are competition. People will always buy for convenience sake and don’t care so much about the taste. Don’t discount them because they bake different. Consider all businesses with baked goods to be competition.
- How much do your competitors charge? If there is another business like yours, will you be price competitive. Any competitor with a perceived similar quality and a lower price is going to make it difficult to get customers to come to you.
As a bakery, you are going to need something unique that will get people to change their current shopping habits and spend money with you. There will always be cakes and goodies somewhere, but to succeed you need to focus on is what makes yours better and get them to start shopping with you.
A few other thoughts on starting a bakery
Start with a plan – Everyone starting a bakery absolutely needs a business plan and should do it before doing anything else. Even if you aren’t looking for funding the business plan will force you to put your ideas on paper, focus on a market, decide on what products to make which will give you the data to decide on how much inventory and equipment will be needed. This will also help you decide how big of a location will be needed to serve the market and how much money you need to get started. Don’t know how to write one? Visit your local Small Business Development Center www.asbdc-us.org for free help in writing one. Do yourself a favor, get in touch with them and dive into your life-long dream with both eyes open.
Hours – There is a good chance, especially in the early stages will probably require your day to start around midnight and work through the early afternoon depending on your product mix, especially when creating cakes for special occasions. The best case scenario you will be working at 4am baking items for the morning customers. This can be a tough transition, especially for those with young families. Take this into consideration before spending a lot of money and starting a bakery.
Equipment and space – At a minimum you are going to need heavy duty commercial mixers. Don’t try to save money and get the consumer ones as they will only last you a short time in a commercial capacity. Plan for at least on 80 quart and one 140+ quart mixer. Be aware these two machines are difficult to move as they weigh between 250 to almost 1000 pounds, so make sure you know where you are going to put them. You are also going to need room for shelving, refrigerator space, freezer space and room for large quantities of flour, sugar, vegetable shortening, butter, frozen eggs, egg yolk and other assorted odds and ends.
Licensing – Assuming your kitchen location is set you will at a minimum need a food handler’s permit. Someone has to be on the premises who is licensed to prepare the food, not all of the employees. Check with your local health department for a listing of the classes which are typically offered through the health department or community college.
Be sure to take your time in the pre-startup phase. It is better to take the time now to find out what you are doing than to rush in and open your doors. Rushing leads to mistakes which at the best case scenario costs money and worst case spells disaster to your business.